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Winning Chess Moves

Updated on May 29, 2010

Chess Moves

In play, a 'gambit' is a chess opening in which a player deliberately offers a piece or a pawn in the hope of obtaining a later positional advantage.

If a player so places one of his pieces that in his next move he could take the hostile King, he has the King in check and it is customary to announce this by saying 'check'. There are three ways a player may be able to get his King out of check: (1) by moving the King to a square not under attack; (2) by capturing the attacking piece; (3) by interposing a piece between the attacking piece and the King. The game can then continue. Otherwise it is check­mate and the game is over. Not all chess pieces move in the same way and beginners usually learn the moves of the pieces separately.

All pawns are governed by the same rules. If moved at all they are always moved forward and never retreat. A pawn may be moved forward two squares in its first move but thereafter it is confined to one square at a time. Pawns capture by moving diagonally forward left or right, and can take any hostile piece in the next rank if it is in an adjoining file. A pawn can put the hostile King in check. Any pawn which reaches the opponent's back rank can be exchanged for any other piece the player chooses, and it is usual to promote it to a Queen because this is the strongest chess piece.

Kings are confined to moving only one square at a time but they can use ranks, files or diagonals provided the square they move to is free from the player's own pieces. A King can capture a hostile piece if it is on an adjoining square. The White and Black Kings must never occupy adjoining squares because a player moving his King to such a square would be putting it in check, which is against the rules. A square between the two Kings may be occupied by pieces of either colour or it may be vacant.

Queens have far-ranging powers. They are allowed to use ranks, files or diagonals and they may be moved as many squares as the player elects provided no piece obstructs them. A Queen can occupy the square of a hostile piece which is then removed from the board. Queens cannot change direction in any one move.

Bishops are confined to diagonals. They may be moved as far along an unobstructed diagonal as the player chooses. If moved to a square occupied by a hostile piece that piece is removed from the board. Each player has one Bishop which uses the white squares and one is confined to the black squares. Bishops cannot change direction in any one move.

Knights make an L-shaped move and are the only pieces allowed to hop over other pieces. These may be of either colour. The Knight move can be two squares up a file and then one square across a rank or alternatively two squares across a rank and then one square up or down a file. The move is a leap from one corner of a six-squared rectangle to the opposite corner.

Rooks, like Bishops, have the long move and can be advanced or retreated as many squares as the player chooses but they must always be kept to a rank or file in any one move. A Rook captures a hostile piece by moving on to the square it occupies and the enemy piece is removed from the board.

Two special moves should be noted by the beginner. The first is called 'castling' and is permitted once to each player in any game. Its object is twofold: (1) the King is placed in a position of greater safety towards the side of the board; (2) a Rook is brought towards the centre of the back rank. This is the only occasion on which a player moves two of his own pieces at once. The King is moved two squares in the rank towards the corner and the Rook is placed on the other side of the King, so bringing it towards the centre of the back rank. When castling is completed on the King's side of the board there is always one vacant square in the corner. Castling completed on the Queen's side leaves two empty squares in the corner beyond the King. Players may not castle if either the King or the Rook have previously moved or if the back rank squares involved are under attack. A King may neither move into check nor through check and a King already in check may not castle.

The second special move is where a pawn is captured 'en passant'. If a pawn is moved two squares in its first move and draws up alongside a hostile pawn, it can then be captured on the square it would have moved to if it had been advanced only one square. The capture is optional but must be made immediately or the player forfeits his right to capture 'en passant'.

There are two methods of chess notation. Until recently Descriptive or English notation was used throughout the English-speaking countries but there has been a ten­dency for all countries to adopt because of its simplicity the continental system known as Algebraic notation. The ranks are numbered from one to eight from White's back row. The files each have a letter from a to h reading from left to right across the board. Pieces but not pawns are identified by their initials. Movement of any piece is given as the combined letter/number of the square it leaves and, after a dash, the square it then occupies.

Descriptive notation has numbering for both Black and White. The files take the initials of the piece in the back row. The ranks are numbered one to eight. Pieces are identified by their initials. Pawns also have the initials of the piece they start in front of. Movement is given as the initials of the piece followed by a dash and then the initials and number of the square it moves to. An X indicates a capture. To castle is shown as 0-0 on the King's side and 0-0-0 on Queen's side.

If neither player has sufficient material left to check­mate at the end of the game the result is a draw. Check­mate cannot be forced if a player is reduced to a King and one Bishop or a King and two Knights. If a player finds that his King is not in check and although it is his turn he cannot make a legal move, that is a stalemate and the game is declared a draw. If the same position appears three times consecutively in a game the player making the move can claim a draw provided he announces his inten­tion of making the move for the third time. If 50 moves have been made and no pawn has been moved and no piece taken a draw can be claimed by the player about to make the next move.


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